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Full text of "G. K. Chesterton"

2O                               G.   K.   CHESTERTON
indifferent to accuracy. But in spite of this habitual care-
lessness his knowledge and memory were prodigious.
Throughout his whole adult life, but in particular through-
out the last half of it after his reception into the Catholic
Church, problems of religion wholly overshadowed all
other problems in his mind. Indeed, to him politics and
literature and all the other activities of man were only of
importance in so far as they could be made of service to the
cause of religion. His reception into the Catholic Church,
although it was to him immensely the most important event
of his private life, had little effect on his literary develop-
ment. For the religious problems which he had cared to
discuss had always been the large questions of the being of
God and Man and Christ rather than the precise details of
the nature or residence of authority. Therefore there was
little, if anything, in such an earlier work as Orthodoxy,
written many years before his reception into the Catholic
Church, which he would not have been willing to repeat
at the end of his life.
Yet to attempt a biography of St. Thomas Aquinas did
seem to many a challenge to fate. * Francis of Assisi'
they said, * Yes. There is a man who has won the affection
of all mankind. That is a natural subject for the popularizer.
But would it not be wiser to leave Aquinas to the specialist ?'
The event proved the exact opposite. The remarkable
revival of Thomism in modern Europe has indeed been the
begetter of specialized works of scholarship of the greatest
value. Yet there is a great danger in leaving a revival solely
to the specialists—a danger that we shall not be allowed to see
the wood for the trees. It was proved that Chesterton's
general commentary was exactly what the general reader
needed. Thomist scholars were the first and most generous
in their praise. Professor Etienne Gilson, perhaps the most
learned of living Thomists, said on reading this book,
* Chesterton makes one despair. I have been studying St.
Thomas all my life and I could never have written such a
book'.